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Dental Appliances for Sleep Apnea

Mar 05, 2021
· 4 mins read

Many people may be familiar with CPAP treatment for sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, but did you know there was another option? Dental devices are used as an effective treatment for mild to moderate sleep apnea patients that cannot stand CPAP therapy or have found that continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP therapy is not effective for them. Before you decide on a treatment option, your healthcare provider may conduct a polysomnography or sleep study to determine the kind of sleep apnea you have.  Once your sleep study is complete and you and your doctor have decided that dental devices are the correct treatment for you, he may provide you with a referral to a dental sleep medicine facility. Once there, the qualified dentist or orthodontist will follow-up with you and take a mold of your teeth and mouth to properly fit the oral appliance.

Types of Dental Devices

Mandibular Advancement Device

There are three oral appliance options that are used in sleep apnea treatment. These oral appliances fit like orthodontic retainers. The first one is called a mandibular advancement device (MAD), also known as a jaw advancing device (JAD). The function of this dental device is to push the lower jaw forward to help clear the airway obstruction of the soft tissues and upper airway that causes your sleep apnea.

Another oral appliance therapy option is called the Thornton Adjustable Positioner (TAP). With this mouthpiece, your dentist can control the degree to which your jaw is pushed forward. The third option available is a tongue retaining device. This device uses a splint that keeps the tongue in place for your airway to remain open. As far as dental devices go, there are no other options besides mouthpieces that have proven effective. Somnodent by Somnomed is a popular brand of oral appliances that you can look into. Remember to speak with your sleep doctor or sleep specialist to see if sleep appliances are beneficial as your sleep apnea treatment. 

Advantages and Drawbacks of Using Dental Devices

There are many advantages to using dental appliances but there are some drawbacks as well. Dental devices are small, portable, and convenient. You do not have to worry about where you’re going to place a dental device or where to connect it like you would with a CPAP device.  Some people may be embarrassed to use a CPAP device or may not want their bed partner to see them with the CPAP mask on but if you are using a mouthpiece, you can discreetly place it inside your mouth without anyone noticing.

There is also no noise made by a dental device so you will not disturb anyone who is trying to sleep. Many obstructive sleep apnea patients have reported that their OSA symptoms such as daytime sleepiness or snoring have greatly improved while using dental devices. Another advantage is that you don’t have to worry about waking up with a dry, itchy nose or throat. Perhaps the best advantage to using a dental device is the fact that it is portable so you can take it anywhere.

While dental devices are a great alternative for people who cannot use or cannot stand CPAP therapy, they also have some drawbacks or side effects.  The main issue with dental devices is that they can cause problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This is the joint that is located at the front of each ear and it connects your jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. It is responsible for almost every movement you do with your mouth. Wearing a dental device for a prolonged period can add pressure to the joint and cause pain.

Another issue, specifically with tongue retaining or TAP devices is that they may cause the user to salivate more than normal. Since your tongue is being held in place, that can cause excess saliva and it may be uncomfortable to the user. Dental devices may cause soreness of the teeth and gums and some may even alter the position of your jaw with prolonged use. Another drawback is that these oral devices have to be custom fit to your mouth. 

How are Dental Devices different from CPAP therapy?

Dental devices and CPAP machines all were created with the same goal, to remove the obstruction of the airways that causes sleep apnea symptoms. They share the same goal but have different ways of completing their task. With CPAP machines, you would need to wear a mask connected to a tube that connects to the CPAP machine. Once your mask is on and the tubing is connected, you would lay down and wait for the air pressure to clear the obstruction.

With dental devices, the process is shorter and much easier. All you need to do is put on your dental device and go to bed. You do not need to worry about a mask moving or slipping off your face. The dental device will position your jaw in such a manner that gets rid of the obstruction and causes your breathing pattern to improve. Another difference is that dental appliances have proven to help mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea patients but they may not be so beneficial for severe obstructive sleep apnea patients. 

Final Thoughts

Dental devices are beneficial to a lot of sleep apnea sufferers and are a simpler option as opposed to CPAP therapy. Please make sure to speak with your sleep medicine specialist about which option is best for you and remember to visit Sleeplay, your modern CPAP shop.

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